Wednesday, February 21, 2007


As I have worked on a few thoughts about ecclesiology, I have become overwhelmed by the absolute necessity of a patristic understanding of the dogma of the Trinity as foundational to any discussion of the Church.

But not dogma from a rationalistic or purely academic posture. Actually the Orthodox understanding on doing theology as primarily doxalogical and liturgical is also fundamental to beginning to grasp the patristic understanding of the Church.

In other words, we have to pray the Trinity to begin to appreciate just why this dogma is foundational to any understanding of ecclesiology.

I will go so far as to say that until we treat theology as primarily a doxalogical reality, we will be constantly tempted to reduce these theological truths to mere rational propositions. Which, in turn, will place us as more likely to miss the point of the dogma of the Trinity all together.

Having said that, please note the corporate nature of this way of doing theology. A wise Orthodox theologian once said "You never pray alone." In the very practice of communal prayer and worship we see a hint of the foundational nature of the Trinity in understanding the Divine Mystery of the Church. It is this Orthodox commitment to the ecclesia that both reveal and challenge.

It reveals the nature of the oneness of the dogma of the Trinity in the sense that each Person shares completely the Divine Nature. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one God, not three gods, but one God in three Persons.

However, the unity of the Trinity does not rest in the one Divine Nature, but the One Father. There is one God because there is one Father. The oneness of God rests on the Person of the Father, not on the impersonal distinction of divine nature.

Another saint reminded us that we can "neither confuse the Persons, nor divide the Essence." And here again we see the foundational nature of the Trinity on the theology of the Church. As persons in communion with Christ and one another, we all share the common human nature, but the uniqueness of our persons are not swallowed by this common nature.

In a mystery, in the Church, we each form parts of the Whole without losing the uniqueness of our person. Very much like the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are both One and Three, we also, when entering the Church, participate in a mystery in this divine communion.

I want to say a great deal more on this, and I confess that this may be a subject beyond my abilities, but it has captured my imagination and I want to see where this takes me. Your wisdom and correction are greatly appreciated.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007


By way of explanation, the two widgets to the left are my homage to the last Harry Potter book coming out on July 21st (Yes, I have pre-ordered) and the 5th movie coming out a week before.

I have enjoyed the Potter series of books and find them to contain not only entertaining work but insight into virtues seemingly missing from today's world.

Not meant to start a flame war over the value of Potter books, just a short comment about why I've added these countdowns to my blog.



As I have begun researching for a few articles on the Church and Orthodox ecclesiology, I have come to one over riding conclusion - the absolute necessitty of an Orthodox understanding of the mystery of the Holy Trinity is the very foundation of Orthodox ecclesiology.

Lossky wrote:

The Trinity is, for the Orthodox Church, the unshakable foundation of all religious thought, all piety, of all spiritual life, of all experience. It is the Trinity that we seek in seeking after God, when we search for the fullness of being, for the end and meaning of existence. . . . If we reject the Trinity as the sole ground of all reality and of all thought, we are committed to a road that leads nowhere; we end in aporia, in folly, in the disintegration of our being, in spiritual death. Between the Trinity and hell, there lies no other choice. . . . The revelation of the Trinity shines out in the Church as a purely religious gift, as the catholic truth above all others.

So, the revelation of the Holy Trinity is absolutely essential if we are going to understand the Orthodox teaching of ecclesiology. In fact, Orthodox presupposes an Orthodox view of the Holy Trinity as the foundation of all theological discussion.

What do we mean when we say "the mystery of the Holy Trinity?" Well, it isn't a puzzle to be solved, or a riddle to be deciphered. When we say mystery, we are saying "the more we know, the more we recognize that there is more to know."2 God will always be beyond us, but we can know Him in a personal way. An ancient Orthodox saint (St. Isaac the Syrian, 4th century) said, "By love, God can be held, but by thinking, never!"

Does this mean there nothing we can reasonably know or understand about God? Of course there is.

There is an understanding we can receive when it comes to the great mysteries of our faith. But it is not based on or limited to our rational faculties. It includes our powers of reasoning ("Be transformed by the renewing of your mind"—Romans 12:2), but it far transcends them. It is an "understanding," a "knowing" that comes from love and trust, from a living communion with God, Who alone is Truth, the creator and sustainer of our minds and reasonings.

Don't be scared by the use of the word mystery. It is used to humbly proclaim that we don't (and can't) know every thing about God. Some mysteries have been revealed (Eph. 3:2-6), and some will be revealed. God can never be completely known and understood by human minds; we will be learning about him unto the “ages of ages.” A little-known Christian layman, Minucius Felix, wrote in A.D. 218:

He cannot be seen, for He is too bright for sight; nor can he be grasped, for He is too pure to touch; nor can He be measured, for He is too great for the senses. He is infinite and cannot be measured; and how great He is, is known to Himself alone. Our heart is too narrow to understand Him; and therefore we take His measure worthily by saying that He is immeasurable.

Although God is mysterious, He has revealed Himself to us. In theological terms, we say God is transcendent and immanent—He is both far away and near. Bishop Kallistos Ware sums it up best:

These, then, are the two "poles" in man's experience of the Divine. God is both further from us, and nearer to us, than anything else. And we find, paradoxically, that these two poles do not cancel one another out: on the contrary, the more we are attracted to the one "pole," the more vividly we become aware of the other at the same time. Advancing on the Way, each finds that God grows ever more intimate and ever more distant, well known and yet unknown—well known to the smallest child, incomprehensible to the most brilliant theologian. God dwells in "light unapproachable," yet man stands in His presence with loving confidence and addresses Him as friend.

That is why the mystery of the Holy Trinity is said to be the model of conversion (metanoia) and a cross for humanity. No one can come face to face with this blessed Truth and not fall down in worship. It is like Isaiah when he saw the Lord high and lifted up. The only proper reaction is awe-struck adoration. This Great Mystery forces prideful man to repent (to change his mind). We are called, when confronted with this Great Mystery, to change our minds, change our habitual ways of thinking, and be converted.

Here is the foundation of ecclesiology. The Church as the Body of Christ is directly related to how we view the Holy Trinity.

More to come.

Monday, February 05, 2007


Well, gentle reader, I have just received my acceptance letter from Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, MA. It looks like I am definitely Boston bound this Fall.

I confess I am filled with trepidation at the prospects of uprooting my little family and heading north to the People's Republic of Massachusetts, but I am more fearful on not following through with this to finally explore this calling to the clergy I have had since I was a boy.

Not only will this Southern born and Southern bred convert be entirely too far above the Mason-Dixon, but I will also be among a group of Orthodox Christians I had always tried to avoid - the Greeks.

I had believed all the horror stories about the Greek Archdiocese I heard before my conversion. How they were so ethnic, so insular, and would swallow me whole. It was the equivalent of the "Bogey-man" stories I was told as a child to keep me from wandering into the woods near my home. The stories worked.

But now I find myself married to a beautiful Greek girl, attending a GOA parish here in Ft. Lauderdale, regularly speaking in GOA parishes across the country, and now about to attend the GOA seminary in Boston.

How did this happen?

I think, (pray) it happened for two specific reasons.

First, I believe God desires me to abandon attitudes that are primarily based on fear. To be sure, I have found examples of all the bad behaviors and backward attitudes I was warned about concerning the Greeks, but I have found many more examples of just the opposite among these dear people. I have found genuine Orthodox faith and zeal for the faith that is not solely about preserving an ethnic heritage. I have discovered in even the most "Greeky Greek" parish people who come up to me after I speak and tell me "we need more challenges to grow in our faith." God has me here among a group I had feared would be nothing more than an ethnic social club to reveal to me my own ethnocentric attitudes and my own poverty of heritage.

Second, I believe God placed me among the Greeks to help me develop a true Orthodox mindset. Say what you will about the ethnicity of the Greeks, but when a Greek or Greek-American gets the faith, it is a solid and consistent Orthodox mindset. Now this may very well be true of a Russian or Arab mind as well, but I wouldn't have been as surprised by that as I have been when it comes to the Greeks.

It turns out the Greeks are their own harshest critics. Those among them who see the beauty of the faith and then see the average person in a parish as so ignorant of their faith, truly seeks ways to remedy this sad spiritual poverty. More than once, I have heard accurate and unvarnished critiques from Greek Orthodox laity and clergy alike. They know their problems better than anyone else.

However, I have also spent the past 4 years of my life working in a pan-Orthodox media ministry and have discovered that if it weren't for the Greek Archdiocese, so maligned among other jurisdictions, there would be no OCMC. There would be no IOCC. And there would be no OCN. None of the other Orthodox jurisdictions have supported the work of OCN like the Greek Archdiocese and average Greek Orthodox laypersons. If I could get the other jurisdictions to proportionally give toward this ministry like the GOA has given, we would be much further along than we are as a national media ministry.

So, does the GOA have problems? Of course they do. Are they too ethnocentric? No more than other parishes with a particular dominance of a particular ethnicity, including convert parishes who are more interested in creating another ethnic clique out of our American experiences.

For my salvation, God has graciously led me to serve in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. By God's grace and in His time if He gives me the grace of the priesthood, I will serve a GOA parish. If God is merciful, it will be in the Metropolis of Atlanta, so I will not have to be exiled from my beloved South too long. I am grateful to the Greek Archdiocese for its support and I will not bite the hand that feeds me, nor will I reject the authentic Orthodox witness and the potential for much more that I have happily discovered here among the Greeks.

May God grant many years to my beloved Metropolitan ALEXIOS and may his tribe increase!